While most of us had been enduring the last throes of a long, dark and chilling winter, the Rovers squad where in Dubai enjoying nights out at the tennis, horse racing and playing head tennis on the beach. Steve Kean claimed that vitamin D levels were now very high in the boys and that batteries had been recharged. Having witnessed the latest shambolic away day performance, I suggest someone forgot to flick the power switch on the charger.
I wonder if any of the players suffered from the same travel sickness in the Middle East which has become endemic when playing football matches away from Ewood Park. 7 defeats on the road out of the last 8 games means that Rovers will face a fight for their Premier League survival this term. The division is incredibly compressed with 18th placed West Brom only 4 points adrift of Rovers and with a game in hand. Both the Fulham and Blackpool fixtures in the coming weeks will define Rovers future.
The great Brian Clough frequently alluded to the view that some matches are lost before a ball is kicked in anger and yesterday was one such example. When we discovered that the line-up included a midfield three of Jones, Andrews and Grella we realised we would have issues. With respect, the trio lack pace, creativity and have about as much control over proceedings as a North African leader has over his subjects. They do have the ability to stop opponents and it was plainly obvious that the intention of Steve Kean was to keep a clean sheet. There is nothing malicious with this tactic but the problem with this formation is that once a goal has been conceeded, it is very difficult to see where the invention and originality is going to come from to enable the side to get back into the game.
Villa played well but were given far too much time on the ball and Rovers continued their bad habit of giving the round thing to the opposition at the earliest opportunity. Robert Perez rolled back the years and was made to look a world beater again and also look quick, and if it hadn't been for Robbo, the scoreline could have surpassed the Old Trafford debacle. Ridiculously, we have played Villa on 9 occasions in little over a season and a half. Surely we should know how to defend against them.
Next Saturday is our annual journey in the time machine as we go back to the 1950's and Craven Cottage. With the exception of our visit to Blackpool this season and the very rare phenomenon of setting foot inside Turf Moor, this has to be my favourite away trip. There is something very special about the place and its surroundings as though it has the remit of being a working football museum, showing a new generation of how watching football used to be.
It is imperative that Rovers gain a positive result to ease the pressure on the management, players and supporters or Mrs Desai could be witnessing her second Rovers match by the seaside at Bournemouth next season.
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